Tom Bianca Interviews Chief Operating Officer and co-founder Leonid Yuffa of DAZBOG COFFEE
Tom “We're going to feature one of the coffee powerhouses in Denver, they are a locally owned business that started in 1996 and that's DAZBOG COFFEE and today we have Leo Yuffa. I don't even know where to begin because it's such a hard business with the competition. I don't think I can even grasp on how many stores sell coffee and you've actually carved a niche and you've got a specific brand, so tell us about the company and how did you get into the coffee business and why did you go into such a competitive arena”?
Leo "When we started the company in 1996 it was not as competitive and we really saw an opportunity to make a stand and make a mark in the industry by providing the best quality coffee, the best service, out service everyone, as well as creating a memorable branding experience, where people have the coffee, consume it, fall in love with it and remember what they are drinking, so what we've done is really tell the story of our life through the brand and that's why you see Russian on it because we are immigrants, we immigrated here in 1979 from St. Petersburg Russia, with not much money, not a word of English and make it in the land of opportunity, where Dad said get an education and make something of yourself, go to work and that's what he did”.
Tom "How many locations do you have now"?
Leo "We have 29 locations. We just opened up a location at Emily Griffith, which is a really nice store for us and it's near and dear to us because our mom when she came to this country went through Emily Griffith. It is part of Denver Public Schools but it's for adult learning, where they teach English as a second language and so they help you fit in, whether you have a degree or you don't have a degree they help you and my mom has her degree in Engineer and she just needed some help in the transition to the industry here and so we made the full circle where we are now the mainstay Cafe in their facility downtown. There's a high school above the building and we have a training program for the students there, so we train them on how to make coffee, how to be a barista, how to be a cashier, assistant manager, manager, so those individuals can go out in the workforce".
Tom "You briefly spoke about branding and blending, that's really a key because there's so many different choices out there, so how do you create your branding and your blends and what makes them different and stand out"?
Leo "Well the branding has been really easy venue for us or something that is not as difficult to do, we use an agency that has done unbelievable job using our story and telling our story and applying it to our brand, DAZBOG which means God Gives, it's a fortuitous saying so when you start a new business, have a new career, you have a new family, you get married, buy a house, your friends and family say DAZBOG, which means you should be very fortunate, and that's what we've done. Like I said we tell our story and we do the same thing with our blends, we name them White Nights Espresso, it is named after the romantic white nights in St. Petersburg where we're from where there's a period of two weeks in the summer time that its light for 24 hours and that's when everyone likes to be on the rivers and canals throughout the city, it's very romantic and we believe our espresso illustrate that, so we have some fun with it, so we do some fun names like, Russian Roulette, KGB or Interrogating Blend. We poke fun of it and it has done wonders for us".
Tom “Tell us a little more about the blends you offer”?
Leo “So the blending for us has always been special and the blend is really a creation of product where we say, here's a blend and here's the way it's going to taste and the art of delivering the same blend each and every day to our consumers, so it's an evolution to recreate that taste, otherwise we do quite a bit of single origin coffee and certified organic, which has been a big part of this".
Tom "How do you select your coffee beans, why and where?
Leo “So there are four regions in the world that grow coffee, Central America, South America, Indonesia and Africa, we buy from every region and just about every country depending on the crop and the quality and the crop is what gets us to buy, so we do tastings of the coffee and we have relationships at the source as well as brokers to buy the coffee based on samples and based on what we want to deliver in the coffee".
Tom "I know the answer to this, but I figured I'd ask, what are your favorite products"?
Leo "Straight coffee and espresso, my favorite drink is a shot of espresso and I also like a double shot of espresso with a half a cup of coffee, otherwise I love all of it just depending on my mood and when I travel I'll stop by every coffee shop, from the Ma's and Pa's that are you doing it, the independents, the chain and to the mass market, I really try to stop in everywhere to see what everyone is doing, to taste what everyone is doing and just enjoy the vibe”.
Tom "What is your best seller"?
Leo "1996 is the big blend for us right now. We launched it on our 20th anniversary and it's a blend that we will have moving forward, the consumer has really fell in love with it, it's full body, it's got a lot of flavor, it's just naturally sweet, it really attacks your palette from the every side, it's not Smoky, it's not pungent, it's just right".
Tom "So have you had any setbacks that you thought you could not overcome"?
Leo "The set setbacks are just part of life, whether it's family, friends, community, business, it just means you're still alive and so we try to look at it as an opportunity and pivot, which we've pivoted our business every two to three years to be relevant and to be alive, so that's something I think is important in every business and we're definitely not immune to it".
Tom "I wanted to get back to a little bit more about the success of DAZBOG, I'm sure you're probably looking at growing because you want to make an impact a little bit more. Have you ever thought about the possibility of creating another Starbucks or are you happy with what you have now. What's the dream here on out"?
Leo "So the company is closely held and it's important for us to continue to grow in a smart way, we've always grown through cash flow, we're not high flyers in terms of growth and raising capital, so we are not interested in selling our company to investors to speed up the growth, so we look at opportunities and there are quite a few in front of us, we are going to have more stores in the next 12 to 18 months that are already on the books and are in development, three of which are going to be at DIA, we have been fortunate enough to win The RFP to have a store on the east side of every concourse, we're excited for that and all three stores should open up by next May or June and that is a great opportunity for us, not only local but as well as the regional and national level”.
Tom "Are you going to introduce new products for the market, not only blends of coffee, but various food and beverages"?
Leo "We're always looking at new products, beverages and food items. Cold Brew and Nitro is on the top of our minds to have in all our stores and to make it available to the mass market as well. We think we've developed the best Cold Brew on the market and we're excited to launch it shortly".
Tom "I love your website where you can actually purchase all of your products there right"?
Leo "We have a lion's share of our most popular products for sure and single origin and limited varieties”.
Tom "Are you hiring right now and how do they apply"?
Leo "Go to www.dazbog.com, there's a career post there”.
Tom "So just a few more questions and we'll wrap it up. What challenges and issues do you face going forward"?
Leo "I think labor and real estate acquisition, Colorado in particular, we've seen the real estate go through the roof, it's great when you own it, it's not good if you're leasing the real estate from someone, so it makes it difficult between the rent increases and labor hiring on a daily basis, it's definitely challenging”.
DAZBOG is a locally owned company, to purchase product and find more information visit www.dazbog.com